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Rainbow Warrior sails into Doha to challenge the WTO to force the US to commit to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

What is the WTO?

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) is one of the most powerful institutions in the world. It oversees the global trade in goods and services. There are currently 146 member countries of the WTO.

The WTO's primary aim is to serve the private sector rather than governments: 'Although negotiated and signed by governments, the goal is to help producers of goods and services, exporters and importers conduct their business.'

This view of the world deletes important elements such as the environment, the hundreds of millions of poor people who produce for themselves (not for markets) as well as many other social and human rights issues.

When the WTO was set up in 1995, the majority of developing countries were not at the table and were barely consulted. As a result, the WTO essentially protects multinational corporations based in the North and acts as a tool of rich and powerful countries - notably the US, the EU, Japan and Canada.

Although the majority of other WTO members are developing countries from Africa, Asia/Pacific and Latin America, many of them have little to say in decisions that are taken at WTO meetings. Smaller countries are blocked from entering meetings and don't have enough to offer from an economic standpoint to have any real power.

Not surprisingly, even though the WTO is a fairly new institution, there has been public scepticism and concern about how it functions since the beginning. Find out more about previous WTO meetings.

The WTO came into existence after a long series of negotiations that took place between countries from 1986 to 1994. It is made up of a series of agreements and incorporates the old General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), a set of global rules that governed trade in goods.

But while the GATT only focused on trade in goods, the WTO's rules were extended to embrace many other topics, including intellectual property, investment, services, telecommunications and financial services (banking).

The latest updates


Italian seeds contaminated with GE maize

Feature story | 10 July, 2003 at 0:00

Over 100 farmers in Northern Italy have discovered that non-genetically engineered (GE) maize seeds that they bought and planted, were in fact contaminated by GE maize. The fact that cases like this are happening on a regular basis, raises...

EU, don't cave in to US GMO agenda!

Feature story | 7 July, 2003 at 0:00

We gave two sacks of soy contaminated with Monsanto's genetically engineered (GE) varieties to Pascal Lamy (EU Trade Commissioner) and asked him to send them back to his US counterpart, Robert Zoellick. The right to say no to genetically...

Tougher EU GMO legislation

Feature story | 2 July, 2003 at 0:00

The European Parliament has adopted the world's toughest rules on the labelling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), despite intensified pressure from the US and the GE industry. The new rules bring great news for EU consumers, farmers and...

The US War on Biosafety - Renewed Aggression by a Rogue State

Publication | 24 June, 2003 at 0:00

On May 13, 2003 the US government filed a formal complaint in the World Trade Organization (WTO) against the European Union’s de facto moratorium on genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The WTO challenge was launched despite the fact that the...

Who rules the G8? Right

Image | 2 June, 2003 at 1:00

Who rules the G8? Right, end of photo op, let's go boys...

Police guards and barbed wire keep out public

Image | 21 October, 2002 at 1:00

Police guards and barbed wire keep out public opinion while the GE seed industry plots the contamination of European land inside.

Earth scores against WTO

Feature story | 2 September, 2002 at 0:00

Yesterday evening, while the industry lobbyists were eating sushi and drinking champagne around a spectacular swimming pool, Greenpeace and other non-governmental organisations were taking action inside the halls of the Earth Summit.

WWF/ Oxfam/ Greenpeace comments on the Chairmans text on Trade and Finance Means of...

Publication | 24 August, 2002 at 0:00

This joint statement details our deep concerns with issues that insufficient or completely lacking in the text being discussed at the Earth Summit.

Who really rules our planet?

Feature story | 19 August, 2002 at 0:00

As government leaders meet in Johannesburg for the second Earth Summit, we have to ask why they are bothering. If you wanted to make some changes on Sesame Street, wouldn't it make more sense to invite the writers and puppeteers to meet, rather...

Unlikely hero released from jail

Feature story | 12 August, 2002 at 0:00

Joseph Melloh has spent the last three months in a Congolese jail, not for his former career as a professional poacher, but for campaigning against the bushmeat trade and investigating the operations of one logging company in the Congo.

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